State Volleyball: Quarterfinal Preview
(Catch it Kansas) -
Because of COVID-19, the volleyball state tournament went through significant changes. In the past, all eight teams were seeded and went to the state tournament. Three pool play matches occurred for each team Friday, and the top-two in each of the two pools advanced to Saturday’s semifinals. This year, the Round of Eight occurs Tuesday with sub-state winner matched up in the closest geographical region. The top-four teams advance to state either Friday or Saturday depending on the classification. All rankings from Kansas Volleyball Association poll that came out Oct. 21.
Here’s a look at not only Tuesday’s first-round state pairings, but the top favorites for each class.
Garden City (19-13) at Derby (22-11) – Garden City has won 10 straight Western Athletic Conference championships. GC has reached the state tournament six straight years. The Buffs graduated its dynamic trio of hitter Reagan Karlin, setter Remi Vargas and libero Kelbi Richter. Karlin exceeded 1,000 career kills, Richter 1,000 digs and Vargas 2,000 assists. GC and Derby both lost in pool play last season, though one of the squads will be in the final four in ’20. GC’s top-five hitters are all seniors, paced by 180 kills from Julie Calzonetti. Derby did not reach state for 17 years and has now qualified in back-to-back seasons. Derby is 18-7 after a 5-4 start. Senior Sophia Connor leads with 253 kills, 60 aces and is second with 59 blocks.
Wichita Northwest (12-1) at Washburn Rural (31-4) – Northwest qualified for state for the first time since ’16. The Grizzlies played a City League only schedule after COVID-19 cancelled the early part of fall. Washburn Rural is likely the state favorite after it took second a year ago. Longtime coach Kevin Bordewick cleared 900 career victories earlier this season. WR has a bevy of star talent, including sophomore Brooklyn DeLeye, one of the country’s best in her class. WR is ranked fourth in 6A.
Lawrence Free State (18-13) at Olathe Northwest (26-0) – Olathe Northwest is the state’s last unbeaten team. The top-four and five of the leading six hitters are freshmen. Skyler Pierce leads with 289 kills. FS qualified for state a second straight year. Northwest is ranked No. 1 in 6A.
Shawnee Mission Northwest (26-5) at Blue Valley West (21-7) – Northwest’s senior pair of Taylor McCarthy (247 kills) and Reanne DeBose (206 kills) have each hit at least .280. McCarthy has committed to Regis (Colo.) University, and DeBose to University of New Mexico. DeBose cleared 1,000 career kills. SMNW is second in 6A.
Great Bend (20-10) at Maize South (28-6) – GB went through a pair of COVID-19 quarantines. The match will have two of Kansas' best specialists with GB libero Sydney Unruh and Maize South’s setter Laurel Jones, a Marquette commit. Maize South has qualified for state in three straight years. Unruh is at 488 digs, and Jones is a returning second team all-state pick. The 6-foot-1 Jones has 468 assists and 228 kills this year.
Bishop Carroll (24-2) at Newton (23-11) – Carroll has qualified for state the last four seasons. Newton missed state last year, though qualified the previous five falls. BC took fourth last year. Carroll senior Ella Larkin is a returning second team all-state selection. Larkin has committed to LSU for indoor and beach volleyball. Bishop Carroll is ranked fourth in 5A. Newton senior Asha Regier has led Kansas in kills. She has 484 with a .353 average.
Topeka Seaman (28-7) at Lansing (25-1) – One of the state’s best first-round matches, Lindsay Zych has done an exceptional job taking over for Lansing volleyball. She replaced Julie Slater, who retired after 1,000 career victories, second on the all-time list. Lansing finished third in 5A in ’19. Lansing is ranked third in 5A, Seaman fifth.
St. James Academy (27-3) at St. Thomas Aquinas (23-2) – The headline match – and a match that could probably be for the state championship. SJA and Aquinas are loaded with Division I talent. Aquinas defeated SJA in three sets for the 5A crown last fall. Both teams have been ranked in the top-10 nationally. Aquinas beat St. James on Sept. 2, Sept. 24 and Sept. 29 this year. Aquinas is No. 1, SJA second in 5A.
Andale (33-2) at Clearwater (20-12) – Andale had the best season in school annals with a 4A runner-up to Hayden last fall. Andale’s Katelyn Fairchild, an excellent multi-sport athlete, has committed to Texas A&M track. Clearwater was 12-24 last season. Clearwater is at state for the first time since ’15. Andale is 2-0 against Clearwater in ’20. Andale is the No. 1 team in 4A – the Indians, McPherson and Bishop Miege are the heavy state favorites.
McPherson (32-3) at Clay Center (26-6) – Clay Center has last qualified for state in ’14. McPherson had not reached state in the last three falls, though qualified every year from ’10-16. The Bullpups feature hitter Rhian Swanson, a Kansas commit, and a talented group that includes libero Taylor Casebeer.
Wamego (25-12) at Bishop Miege (16-11) – Miege senior Payton Verhulst, a Louisville basketball commit and one of the top-10 women’s basketball players nationally in the 2021 class, elected to return to volleyball this fall. Four of the top-five hitters are all seniors, and Verhulst leads with 259 kills.
Ottawa (22-13) at Labette County (25-8) – Ottawa’s Darby Weidl has statistically posted a big season with 476 kills on 1,460 attacks and has 381 digs. Weidl has ranked in the top-10 in the state for kills and digs throughout the fall.
Goodland (33-5) at TMP-Marian (30-7) – TMP beat Phillipsburg in sub-state after a pair of losses to the Panthers earlier in ’20. Monarch 6-foot junior hitter Emilee Lane has enjoyed another big season and has multiple Division II looks. Key TMP senior libero Emilee Augustine missed a little time in midseason, though has returned down the stretch. Goodland last qualified in ’15 and has not lost since Sept. 19. The Cowgirls were 8-27 two years ago and 18-18 last fall. Overall, Goodland had 34 total wins in the previous four falls. Sophomore Talexa Weeter leads with 300 kills. The top-four hitters are all non-seniors. TMP has four seniors, all who significantly play. This is the first matchup between the schools since ’18. TMP, the winner of Smoky Valley/Cheney and Sabetha are all state favorites in the state’s deepest class.
Cheney (28-3) at Smoky Valley (30-2) – An outstanding matchup against a pair of squads that could definitely win the state title. Both teams have very significant experience. Cheney has seniors Kylie Scheer and Lexi Cline, one of the state’s leading liberos, among other key players. SV won league and went to state for the first time since the ’80s. Smoky Valley returned its entire team, and junior hitter Abby Rose is a Division I talent. Cheney coach Sara Walkup is in her 12th year. She is 389-90 with four top-three finishes.
Perry-Lecompton (23-16) at Sabetha (35-1) – Sabetha has enjoyed back-to-back best records in school history and navigated through a highly challenging sub-state with Nemaha Central, Silver Lake, Rossville, and Royal Valley. Sabetha reached state for the first time since ’99.
West Franklin (31-3) at Riverton (29-8) – This matchup features a pair of the state’s top statistical performers with WF senior setter Ainsley Corwine and Riverton sophomore Jacy Thomasson. Corwine has 813 assists and 3,313 in her career. Thomasson has 498 kills with a .358 hitting percentage and 72 blocks, all team-bests.
Spearville (31-2) at Smith Center (32-6) – Another great match that is worthy of at least a state semifinal. Spearville is the defending 2A state runner-up, and SC qualified for state last season. Smith Center has zero seniors on varsity for coach Nick Linn. He cleared 900 career victories this year. Spearville has first team all-state libero Alissa Heskamp. Spearville is ranked fifth, SC sixth in the rankings.
Hillsboro (26-3) at Garden Plain (29-7) – Hillsboro qualified through a tough sub-state that also included Sedgwick, a 30-win team. Garden Plain is a well-known powerhouse with coach Gina Clark. Her daughter, Kaylie Bergkamp, is Andale’s coach. In the previous five years, GP has two state titles and a third-place finish. Garden Plain is ranked fourth.
Wabaunsee (26-10) at Jefferson County North (32-5) – Wabaunsee has finished second and first in 2A the last two years. Junior Lauren Schutter, a returning first team all-state player, has 346 kills and carries a .367 average.
Olathe Heritage Christian (24-8) at Pittsburg St. Marys Colgan (23-4) – Colgan seniors Millie Stockard and Kaitlin Crossland are multi-year standouts. Stockard has 256 kills and a .323 average this year. Stockard has 1,526 kills in his career. Colgan is ranked first in 2A.
1A, Division I
Victoria (26-5) at Central Plains/Wilson (27-11) – A wide-open field as Class 1A split to two classes. No. 1 Burlingame did not qualify for state, along with No. 3 Pretty Prairie, No. 4 Olpe and No. 5 Sylvan-Lucas. The winner of this match has a strong chance for the state title. CP captured state last season with a 34-11 record. Coach Lisa Crites returns junior Kassidy Nixon, among other key players. Victoria is at state for the second straight year after it did not reach since 1991. The Knights returned 95 percent of the team’s kills. Junior Kassi Weber leads with 236 kills. Central Plains won Oct. 6, while Victoria captured two wins on Oct. 17. Victoria is ranked sixth in 1A. Nixon is a returning first team all-state pick, and Weber an honorable mention selection.
Kiowa County (18-18) at St. John (21-17) – St. John had multiple sub-.500 seasons after a turnaround this fall for veteran coach Trish Wade. SH has won four state titles, including ’08, ’10 and ’11. The top-three hitters are all non-seniors, though junior Darby Smith by far leads the team with 256 kills.
Pratt-Skyline (26-7) at Flinthills (20-12) – Skyline is state for the first time since ’14, and Flinthills has qualified for the first time in four years. Skyline is ranked eighth.
Centralia (23-10) at Lebo (29-3) – After a rare absence last season, Centralia is back in the state tournament. The Panthers won state from ’16-18 under now retired coach Kimbrook Tennal. Lebo is ranked second.
1A, Division II
St. Francis (27-6) at Wheatland-Grinnell (23-15) – St. Francis is ranked fourth and is at state for the first time since ’96. No. 1 Golden Plains did not reach the state tournament, along with No. 3 Argonia, No. 7 Coldwater-South Central, No. 9 Beloit-St. John’s/Tipton and No. 10 Dighton. Coach Shannon Foster won a state title in ’15. W-G reached state every year from ’14-18. The Thunderhawks have seven total players on varsity. Junior Livia Schultz leads with 276 kills. W-G has beaten SF three straight times.
Otis-Bison (17-17) at Attica (27-6) – Otis-Bison qualified for state in ’16, ’17 and ’18. The Cougars finished in third place in ’16 and state runner-up in ’17. Attica is ranked fifth. Otis-Bison has four seniors: libero/DS Abbi Bahr, outside hitter Martina Mengoni, setter/DS Danica Bartonek and outside/middle hitter Lauren Maier. Bartonek and Maier are the team captains.
Linn (19-10) at Hanover (28-6) – Hanover is ranked second, and Linn eighth. Both are Twin Valley League rivals; the TVL is well-known for its volleyball success. The winner of this matchup is likely the state favorite. Linn has enjoyed volleyball success after its football season was unfortunately cancelled from lack of players. Hanover has no seniors on varsity and plays just seven Wildcats. Sophomore Ceegan Atkins leads with 245 kills. Linn went 2-1 against Hanover this season. Linn senior Faith Beikman is a talented player with 178 kills and 74 blocks, both team-highs.
Hutchinson Central Christian (18-8) at Marmaton Valley (20-11) – Central Christian last qualified for state in ’11 and ’15. Marmaton Valley qualified for the first time since 1979, according to the Iola Register.
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